FROM THE STANDS: The Super Bowl, Kyler Murray and Hoops

I do my best to ignore a lot of the sports media this week because I am not interested in being bludgeoned to death with all the minutiae of the Super Bowl. The media frenzy surrounding the game is just about intolerable. From the idiotic questions like What are you wearing on Sunday?”! and Is this a must-win game?” to the breaking down of where each team practices, what they are eating, where they are going tonight, what they were like in high school… I just don’t care. I did, however, listen to the Patriots’ press conference on Monday when they had to address the deflated footballs. Where to begin?

I had this long, detailed thing about the New England Patriots being convicted cheaters and how they are now repeat offenders. It was nice, with Law & Order references and everything. But I scrapped it, because if I write it then I become part of the Super Bowl minutiae I detest. I’ll leave it at this: I don’t believe you, New England. I think you’re dirty, and I think you knew exactly what was going on. I don’t for a second believe a detail-driven guy like Bill Belichick is unaware of the condition of the game ball and it’s comical that he says that he is. Go Seattle.

Let’s talk some Horns!!!

Hoops

Texas dropped their second straight game with a loss at Iowa State on Monday night. It started off well, but then it came off the rails at the end of the first half. Texas got down big but scored 61 points in the second half and cut it to three, but bad decisions on defense and bad decisions with the ball were too costly to overcome and the Horns lost, 89-86. After a 13-point loss to Kansas on Saturday, Texas is in its second 2-game losing streak of the season. There’s a lot of time left, but if the Horns plan to contend for the Big 12 title they need to pick it up in a big way. Right now Texas sits at 3-4 in Big 12 play, three games back of Kansas. There is no time for a pity party, either, as Texas travels to No.20 Baylor on Saturday. You can bet the Bears are ready after Texas embarrassed them in Waco last year. The Horns are staring 3-5 in the face, which is not at all where they thought they’d be.

The good news is the schedule gets easier after Saturday: Oklahoma State at home on Wednesday, a not great K-State team in Manhattan on 2/7 and home games against TCU and Tech the following week. If Texas can get a win in Baylor this weekend and get to .500, they have a great chance to be 19-6/8-4 headed to oklahoma on 2/17 and all the goals are right there. But this weekend is a must.

I hope Texas cuts loose offensively and shows the more urgent, more wide-open style they had in the second half against Iowa State. There is no shame or harm in losing to Kansas and Iowa State, but lessons must be learned going forward.

It’s a little bit like the football team last year in that success is completely dependent on the defense way too often. You can’t four and five minutes in the best basketball conference in America and not score. It doesn’t matter how good the defense is, eventually you need to score points, and there are just way too many times that Texas cannot score points.

I’m hoping the second half on Monday was a sign of things to come.


Recruiting

The internet exploded last week when Kyler Murray and DeMarkus Lodge made surprise mid-week visits to Texas and tweeted out pictures of Texas jerseys with their numbers on them. Lodge is a 4-star wide out from Cedar Hill that is looking at Ole Miss and A&M, while Kyler Murray is the superstar Allen quarterback and son of Kevin who’s committed to Texas A&M. The visit sent shockwaves through Aggieland, as the mere thought of Murray going elsewhere was terrifying. Since that visit, Murray has gone more-or-less silent on social media. Depending on who you read/talk to, that silence is a really good thing for Texas or a really bad thing for Texas. There are those that say he’s now a Longhorn and will announce before signing day, and there are others that say he’s just enjoying the attention and the recruiting process and nothing has changed, meaning he’s still an Aggie. A smallish quarterback with a big arm, lots of people are comparing him to Russell Wilson. He’s also a terrific baseball player that more than a few people believe will never set foot on a college campus because he’s going to get a huge signing bonus as a very high MLB draft pick. Lots of rumors, opinions and subplots. Where is the truth?

In my opinion, I think the interest in Texas is very real. He’s an Aggie legacy (his parents reportedly named him after Kyle Field) and the idea of pulling him away seems far-fetched and unrealistic … until you look at the football side of things. The Aggies are a high-flying offense that puts up points in droves, but they are doing that with a sophomore-to-be quarterback that seems fairly entrenched. Kyle Allen took over for Kenny Hill last season and never looked back, and the idea Murray could unseat him over the summer seems just as far-fetched and ridiculous as him coming to Texas. For a lot of these kids it comes to down to playing time, and right now Texas has a wide open depth chart at quarterback. Add to it the offense is changing to the spread, which Murray runs, and no one has any game experience in that offense on campus now and you see a very real opportunity for Murray to win the job and be the starter in game one at Notre Dame next year. While his dad was a star at A&M, his uncle was a star at Texas. Calvin Murray was big-time for Cliff Gustafson on the baseball diamond, and Kyler is a terrific baseball player that surely will play in college if negotiations with whatever team drafts him break down. The Aggies have a fine baseball program; but it’s not Texas, is it? No it’s not. His dad played at A&M, but on that staff was Charlie Strong, so he’s a known commodity to the family. It isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds, is it? No, no it’s not.

With Murray’s new-found (at least in public) interest in Texas, it’s opened the door for several other big-timers that might not have considered Texas. Gladewater defensive tackle Daylon Mack, a former A&M commit that was scheduled to visit Auburn last week, abruptly canceled that trip and instead took an official visit to Texas. Also in town, 5-star running back Soso Jamabo from Plano and super athlete/quarterback and Florida State commit Kai Locksley from Maryland. It’s no secret that a lot of those guys want to play together and they talk about it. Consider these possibly related facts: Mack showed up seemingly out of the blue, Tallahassee wide out John Burt recommitted to Texas (having previously decommitted, he was considered an Auburn flip before recommitting over the weekend), and defensive tackle DuVonta Lampkin reaffirmed his commitment rather than flipping to oklahoma. Do these guys know something we don’t? Maybe so. Or maybe not. Again, it’s fun isn’t it?

I honestly don’t know what Murray will do. I could see him holding fast with A&M since he’s been committed to them for eight months, but I could see him realizing the opportunity to play right now awaits in Austin and signing with Texas. The fact we are even in this battle is amazing to me. Whatever he does, Texas is going to close out the class of 2015 on fire. There is one more weekend left before the dead period and signing day, and the Horns are going to finish with a flurry. I expect either Chris Warren or Soso Jamabo to commit to Texas, possibly before signing day, and I think they get Kai Locksley as well. They might get all three. With the loss of Zach Gentry to Michigan, Locksley is a must. Texas needs a quarterback in this class and Locksley is a terrific spread quarterback. He’s also an outstanding athlete that could play wide out, and the more athletes and speed Texas can get on this field, the better. This is going to be a terrific recruiting class even without Kyler Murray, but if he decides to come here, it’s easily the best class since 2002. And what about super corners Holton Hill and Kris Boyd, who plan to commit together on Friday? It’s Aggies or Texas and they are likely going to school together. So many things are going on.

One week to go, folks. Hold on.

 

The Team

Right now the football team is in the middle of the worst part of football, the off-season. All the running, lifting and torture devices for improvement are miserable. The season ahead is just a dream. Spring practice is just a dream. It’s cold, everyone’s sore and tired. And it just started.

There isn’t any LHN coverage of off-season workouts or anything and there isn’t much news to be had. There is one guy I’m curious about above all others and it’s someone I think about a lot with all this recruiting drama: Jerrod Heard.

With Texas moving to the spread, everyone is in a frenzy about whether or not Kyler Murray could be the starter next season. I myself just wrote “…could be the starter at Notre Dame.” Everyone seems to have forgotten about Jerrod Heard. It wasn’t that long ago that it was Heard everyone wanted. In 2013 Heard was the two-time 1st Team All State QB and US Army All-American Bowl participant. He was the back-to-back state championship qb at Denton Guyer. He wasn’t 43-0 like Kyler Murray, but he was 36-8. He was ESPN’s No.6 dual threat quarterback coming out of high school, where he was a master at running the spread. Bigger (6-foot-2, 200-pounds) and older than Murray (or Locksley), it will be Mr. Heard that gets the first crack at running the spread offense this spring, and if you think he’s going to give that spot up to an incoming freshman, think again. Texas struggled at quarterback last year, and Heard was the backup that was rumored to be struggling with that pro-style offense. I expect he’s itching to show the world what he can do in this system, and he’ll have a three month head start on whoever is coming on this summer. The opportunity for playing time is there for a spread quarterback, but don’t sleep on the decorated, celebrated and talented spread quarterback that’s already on campus.

Back next week with more!

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